Here Comes the SUN: CEU’s 2020 Summer University Online Program

August 6, 2020

CEU’s Summer University (SUN) offers a unique study and professional development program aimed at academics and practitioners from all over the world. 106 individuals participated in courses this year, with another 500 registering for the free accompanying webinar series.

Given Covid-19, 2020’s planned course offerings needed to be revised as a result. Of the 15 in-person courses originally planned, seven were postponed to 2021, when in-person programs will resume at our Budapest campus. The remaining courses were converted to an online format.

“I’m proud of the way my colleagues and the course directors and their faculty approached the challenge of moving much of the program online and turned it into a positive experience,” said Eva Gedeon, executive director of CEU’s Summer University program. Positioning the move as an opportunity to develop experience, skills and tools for online teaching and learning that can be used in the future, she added: “The academic directors of the courses were keen to keep the interactive nature of the live summer school by exploiting all the technical tools available for interactivity.”

Gedeon outlined an approach that included opening receptions, discussions, group work, project work, tutorials and more in the online environment, “so that the courses are mostly not about watching pre-recorded or live lectures. What is key is as much interaction as possible.”

Looking at some of the changes necessitated by the new format, Gedeon revealed: “The ‘Music as Heritage’ course, for instance, replaced its field trip with digital field research, and the other courses also encouraged plenty of synchronous collaboration among participants.” She noted that the support that the program received from OSUN (Open Society University Network) was crucial in this effort. “Without their help and the dedication of the course organizers,” Gedeon added, “We would not have been able to keep this year’s program at least partially alive. Our Center for Teaching and Learning as well as the IT department have also been tremendously helpful in providing pedagogical guidance and resources for remote teaching.”

Of the courses offered online in the summer of 2020, two were linked to cultural heritage: “Music as Heritage: From Tradition to Product - Online Musicology” and “Industrial Heritage as a Source of Social Empowerment and Economic Revitalization.” Two focused on environmental science and policy: “Green Industrialization: Pathways Towards Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development” and “Bridging ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) and the Environment” (the latter was a two-part course, with June webinars to be followed by online courses and workshops in the fall). The courses targeted a diverse audience of academics (graduate students, junior researchers) and practicing professionals in relevant fields. A further course in medieval studies, “Summer School in Latin and Greek Codicology and Paleography”, conceived in an online format from the very start, was offered for academics only. This course combined practical paleography instruction with tuition in textual criticism, codicology, and diplomatics.

“SUN’s appeal derives greatly from a combination of cutting-edge topics and world-class faculty in a wonderful location,” Gedeon stated. As to what makes the program stand out, she noted: “Participants may find similar topics elsewhere but what makes SUN’s offer so distinctive is that our courses are not taught by one person, but by a whole team, a one-off ensemble put together specifically for the program. Participants simply won’t find the combination of these scholars and trainers anywhere else, offering such a wide range of perspectives, frequently from different but complementary multi-disciplinary angles.” CEU’s reputation also makes the program more attractive: “Participants can get a taste of the CEU experience: the extraordinary diversity of the students, the beautiful downtown campus with its library and the high-tech classrooms in Budapest, and more. This short but intensive experience often stays with the participants for a long time and evolves into lasting friendships and more formalized research and professional networks.”